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Collection, Storage and Uses of Stem Cells
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Stem cells are the basic cells of the human body, which are necessary for the development of all tissues. However, they have the ability to morph into specific tissues during the life. This means that they represent a kind of "backup cells" to restore damaged tissues.

Today, the majority of stem cell therapies is performed using adult stem cell, but stem cell therapies with umbilical cord blood have also given excellent results and are increasingly used. For now, the stem cells are used to treat blood diseases, metabolic diseases and immune system disorders.

Treatment implies regeneration of damaged tissues and organs using stem cells. Patient’s own stem cells have been successfully used in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Therefore, an entire medical discipline has been developed in order to use stem cells to treat a variety of diseases. Today, over 70 different diseases are successfully treated (different types of leukemia, genetic metabolic disorders, immune system disorders, anemia…).

Where can we take stem cells from?
- Stem cells exist in the human body from embryonic development to the end of life, in various tissues. In adults, the highest concentration is in the bone marrow and blood. But taking stem cells from the bone marrow is painful and difficult process. In some cases it is even necessary to prick femur more than a hundred times. Therefore, the last 15 years, the idea of keeping person’s own stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood after birth came to life. They are very young and vital, and the process of obtaining is completely safe and painless. The blood sample is taken from the umbilical cord after separating the child from the mother after birth. Stem cells are then isolated from the blood sample and frozen to minus 196 degrees in the gas phase of liquid nitrogen. This process is called cryopreservation, and that way saved stem cells can last indefinitely and, most importantly, they do not get old.

Where to store the samples taken?
- During the last decade, a considerable number of stem cell banks have been formed because more and more parents decide to keep the stem cells from the umbilical cord blood of their newborns. European leader among private-family stem cell banks is a Belgian-Dutch company, Cryo-Save (http://www.cryo-save.com ), with a central laboratory in Belgium. The bank keeps over 100,000 stem cell samples from around the world. For safety reasons, samples are stored in two locations – in Belgium and in the Netherlands.

Who takes the stem cells in the maternity ward?
- The process of taking a sample of blood for stem cells performs an obstetrician immediately after delivery and separation of the newborn. A sample is taken from the part of the umbilical cord that remains attached to placenta and it is placed in a special bag that is part of a set. The procedure is quick (one or two minutes) and painless for both mother and baby. The collected blood is than placed in transport containers. The sample is kept strictly at room temperature until the processing (15-25 degrees).

Do you need special training of the hospital personnel to perform this procedure? What is the success of this procedure?

- Maternity hospital where the samples are taken from umbilical cord blood, have trained personnel (doctors) to carry out these procedures. The amount of blood that can be collected, and the concentration and viability of stem cells in the sample are individual and vary on a case by case basis. The results of the procedures performed can be known after processing in the laboratory. Statistically, this procedure was successful in 95 percent of the cases.

Which family members can use stem cells?
- Stem cells taken at birth from the umbilical cord are the cells of the newborn. If applied in treatment of the child (autologous), they are completely identical. After that, it is most likely to be applicable in siblings and then in parents. Anyway, before allogenic transplantation, compatibility between donor and recipient must first be checked.

How many times can you use a sample? For example, is it possible to treat more family members with different diseases?

- The amount of stem cells that are obtained from a sample of the umbilical cord blood is individual and varies in significant ranges. For each case, quantity required to be used is specifically determined, and whether it is necessary to take additional samples or their multiplications.
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